nothing to say to us?”
Then Collective 0-0009 moved forward.
They moved to the table and the others followed.
“Yes,” spoke Collective 0-0009,
“we have much to say to you.”
The sound of their voices brought silence
to the hall and to beat of our heart.
“Yes,” said Collective 0-0009, “we have
much to say to a wretch who have broken
all the laws and who boast of their infamy!
How dared you think that your mind held
greater wisdom than the minds of your
brothers? And if the Councils had decreed
that you should be a Street Sweeper,
how dared you think that you could be of
greater use to men than in sweeping the streets?”
“How dared you, gutter cleaner,” spoke
Fraternity 9-3452, “to hold yourself as one
alone and with the thoughts of the one
and not of the many?”
“You shall be burned at the stake,”
said Democracy 4-6998.
“No, they shall be lashed,” said Unanimity 7-3304,
“till there is nothing left under the lashes.”
“No,” said Collective 0-0009, “we cannot
decide upon this, our brothers. No such
crime has ever been committed, and it is
not for us to judge. Nor for any small Council.
We shall deliver this creature to the World Council
itself and let their will be done.”
We looked upon them and we pleaded:
“Our brothers! You are right. Let the
will of the Council be done upon our body.
We do not care. But the light? What will
you do with the light?”
Collective 0-0009 looked upon us, and they smiled.
“So you think that you have found a new power,”
said Collective 0-0009. “Do all your brothers think that?”
“No,” we answered.
“What is not thought by all men cannot be true,”
said Collective 0-0009.
“You have worked on this alone?” asked
“Many men in the Homes of the Scholars have
had strange new ideas in the past,”
said Solidarity 8-1164, “but when the
majority of their brother Scholars voted
against them, they abandoned their ideas,
as all men must.”
“This box is useless,” said Alliance 6-7349.
“Should it be what they claim of it,”
said Harmony 9-2642, “then it would
bring ruin to the Department of Candles.
The Candle is a great boon to mankind,
as approved by all men. Therefore it
cannot be destroyed by the whim of one.”
“This would wreck the Plans of the
World Council,” said Unanimity 2-9913,
“and without the Plans of the World Council
the sun cannot rise. It took fifty years
to secure the approval of all the Councils
for the Candle, and to decide upon the
number needed, and to re-fit the Plans so
as to make candles instead of torches.
This touched upon thousands and thousands
of men working in scores of States.
We cannot alter the Plans again so soon.”
“And if this should lighten the toil of
men,” said Similarity 5-0306, “then it is a
great evil, for men have no cause to exist
save in toiling for other men.”
Then Collective 0-0009 rose and pointed at our box.
“This thing,” they said, “must be destroyed.”
And all the others cried as one:
“It must be destroyed!”
Then we leapt to the table.
We seized our box, we shoved them
aside, and we ran to the window. We
turned and we looked at them for the last
time, and a rage, such as it is not fit for
humans to know, choked our voice in our throat.
“You fools!” we cried. “You fools! You thrice-damned fools!”
We swung our fist through the windowpane,
and we leapt out in a ringing rain of glass.
We fell, but we never let the box fall
from our hands. Then we ran. We ran
blindly, and men and houses streaked past
us in a torrent without shape. And the road
seemed not to be flat before us, but as if
it were leaping up to meet us, and we waited
for the earth to rise and strike us in the
face. But we ran. We knew not where we
were going. We knew only that we must
run, run to the end of the world,
to the end of our days.
Then we knew suddenly that we were lying
on a soft earth and that we had stopped.
Trees taller than we had ever seen
before stood over us in great silence.
Then we knew. We were in the Uncharted Forest.
We had not thought of coming here,
but our legs had carried our wisdom, and
our legs had brought us to the Uncharted
Forest against our will.
Our glass box lay beside us. We crawled to it,
we fell upon it, our face in our arms, and we lay still.
We lay thus for a long time. Then we rose,
we took our box and walked on into the forest.
It mattered not where we went. We knew
that men would not follow us, for they
never enter the Uncharted Forest. We had
nothing to fear from them. The forest
disposes of its own victims. This gave us
no fear either. Only we wished to be away,
away from the City and from the air that
touches upon the air of the City. So we
walked on, our box in our arms, our heart empty.
We are doomed. Whatever days are left
to us, we shall spend them alone. And we
have heard of the corruption to be found
in solitude. We have torn ourselves from
the truth which is our brother men, and there
is no road back for us, and no redemption.
We know these things, but we do not care.
We care for nothing on earth. We are tired.
Only the glass box in our arms is like a
living heart that gives us strength. We have
lied to ourselves. We have not built this
box for the good of our brothers. We built
it for its own sake. It is above all our
brothers to us, and its truth above their truth.
Why wonder about this? We have not many days
to live. We are walking to the fangs awaiting us
somewhere among the great, silent trees. There is
not a thing behind us to regret.
Then a blow of pain struck us, our first and our only.
We thought of the Golden One. We thought of the Golden One
whom we shall never see again. Then the pain passed.
It is best. We are one of the Damned. It is best
if the Golden One forget our name and the body
which bore that name.
It has been a day of wonder, this,
our first day in the forest.
We awoke when a ray of sunlight fell across
our face. We wanted to leap to our feet,
as we have had to leap every morning
of our life, but we remembered suddenly
that no bell had rung and that there was
no bell to ring anywhere. We lay on our back,
we threw our arms out, and we looked up at the sky.
The leaves had edges of silver that trembled and
rippled like a river of green and fire flowing high above us.
We did not wish to move. We thought
suddenly that we could lie thus as long as
we wished, and we laughed aloud at the
thought. We could also rise, or run, or leap,
or fall down again. We were thinking that
these were thoughts without sense, but before
we knew it our body had risen in one leap.
Our arms stretched out of their own will,
and our body whirled and whirled,
till it raised a wind to rustle through the
leaves of the bushes. Then our hands
seized a branch and swung us high into a
tree, with no aim save the wonder of learning
the strength of our body. The branch
snapped under us and we fell upon the moss
that was soft as a cushion. Then our body,
losing all sense, rolled over and over on the
moss, dry leaves in our tunic, in our hair,
in our face. And we heard suddenly that
we were laughing, laughing aloud, laughing
as if there were no power left in us save laughter.
Then we took our glass box, and we
went on into the forest. We went on,
cutting through the branches, and it was
as if we were swimming through a sea of leaves,
with the bushes as waves rising and falling
and rising around us, and flinging their
green sprays high to the treetops.
The trees parted before us, calling us forward.
The forest seemed to welcome us. We went on,
without thought, without care, with nothing
to feel save the song of our body.
We stopped when we felt hunger. We saw
birds in the tree branches, and flying
from under our footsteps. We picked a
stone and we sent it as an arrow at a bird.
It fell before us. We made a fire, we cooked